Women Deacons Still Possible
Three Vatican congregations recently decided that courses that
"directly or indirectly" prepare women for ordination
as Catholic deacons must be discontinued. The prefects of the congregations
for the Doctrine of the Faith, Divine Worship and the Sacraments
and the Clergy signed the notification which was apparently directed
at three year courses in Germany and Austria. The courses prepare
women for ordination as deacons and eventually, as priests.
However, Germany's Cardinal Karl Lehmann said that the ban did
not mean a final decision had been reached and affirmed that women
deacons in the Roman Church are still a possibility.
Some commentators thought it odd that the Vatican congregations
decided to speak now when the International Theological Commission,
which has been studying the issue for years, has not yet completed
its work. Others see the notification as a curial response to recent
public calls to open the diaconate to women by Women's Ordination
Dutch theologian John Wijngaards, in a September 29 letter to
the British Catholic journal The Tablet, believes the Vatican decree
"reveals how far Roman leaders are removed from the reality
of our Church.They do not seem to know that even the Orthodox churches
are moving towards reinstalling the sacramental ordination of women
deacons." Wijngaards cited two recent Orthodox conferences
which recommended that church leaders "discern prayerfully"
the possibility of women deacons. He also notes that the historical
research has established without any doubt that "during the
first nine centuries of church history, women received an ordination
that was identical to the ordination given to their male colleagues."
(For extensive scholarly documentation go to www.womenpriests.org).
Meanwhile in Austria, the training of women for the ordained diaconate
will continue, according to Ingrid Thurner, chairwoman of the "We
Are Church" reform movement which organized the courses.